David Robert Jones aka David Bowie (8th January 1947 – 10th January 2016)
“The truth is, of course, there is no journey. We are arriving and departing at the same time”.
I remember this day very well. All too well, in fact. Good Morning, Britain was on and I woke up to the news that genuinely shook me to the core. David Bowie was gone. “No”, I said, “that’s impossible. I had no idea he wasn’t well”. The truth be told, none of us knew. But, David Bowie was always one for surprises, keeping things under wraps. His passing 3 years ago was the biggest surprise of all, because it was him. The music world, and myself, was still reeling from the loss of Lemmy, we never saw this coming at all.
What he has left behind though is a legacy unmatched by anyone. The creation of the different personas in the 1970’s. Making people feel cool, wanting to be like someone or simply knowing that they too could be that someone as well. Take the Ziggy Stardust era for example. People say Bowie reinvented himself as Ziggy Stardust. Created is a better word, because without it, we wouldn’t have had one of the best albums ever made. One of the best bands ever assembled in the Spiders From Mars. So many things were created when that happened. A gamble that paid off spectacularly.
It’s that said album that really grabbed my attention when it came to David Bowie. Sure, we had Ashes To Ashes or China Girl playing a lot in the house, but Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars was a real game changer for me. First of all, it introduced me to Mick Ronson and his style of guitaring, which was brilliant. Secondly, the song Starman. One of my favourite songs ever. “He’d like to come and meet us, but he’d think blow our minds”, the lyrics that confirmed what sort of impact this would have on the people either at the time or later on in life. Anyone who listens to it still feels that vibe.
Sure, the way the Ziggy character, and indeed the Spiders From Mars, ended did raise a lot of surprise and anger, but name me a band that ended nicely, and I’ll raise you a Noel and Liam Gallagher. But without that happening, Heroes and Station To Station would never have come about. And that was Bowie creating once again. Not evolving, but making something brand new. Something to wow the people once again. It was always in his capabilities as an artist and a person. It’s what made him familiar.
The times changed, and Bowie changed with them. And it made my admiration for his music grow even more. Teaming up with Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails was the equivalent was of a dream team for any rock fan. Teaming up for Hallo Spaceboy with The Pet Shop Boys showed versatility. Young Americans, Let’s Dance, Hunky Dory……….the list is bloody endless. Every single thing he did was different, and that is what kept us interested.
After his heart attack in 2004, he called it quits on the live performances for good. I kicked myself for not seeing him in any place at all. If he had been playing as a one man band in the high street, that would’ve been enough for me. So the live shows from the BBC or wherever would have to suffice. They did, and still do, the job. None of this miming nonsense, it was live and you were live with him. Oh, to be there in his 70’s prime, though.
The last two albums, The Next Day and Blackstar, were announced just like that. Once again, the surprise of another album was met with joy from myself and the fans. Little did we know that these would be the last albums he would ever make. Some have said that the timing of the albums release was to coincide with the time he had left. That is one possibility, I suppose. But we will never truly know. And that’s a really sad feeling. But given that is David Bowie we are talking about here, you wouldn’t have been too shocked if that was his idea either.
I sit here now, writing this piece, still with a heavy heart. Like it was yesterday it happened. I still remember making a pilgrimage down to Brixton, to the mural that is on the side of a building not too far from the Brixton Academy. Hundreds and hundreds of fans, laying down flowers and consoling each other as they grieved for their idol. I too laid some flowers, and simply muttered the words, “thank you, David”. I had a lot to thank him for when it came to the choice of music and choice in general.
Often imitated but never bettered, there will never be anyone who will ever come close to David Bowie. And I’m talking about every single aspect of the man, as an artist and as a person. Even as a hero to myself and to millions and millions of others. Which he still is and always will be. After all, we can be heroes. Just for one day.
Rest in paradise, David Bowie